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7.06.2010

The Great Homeschool Debate

I know that my children are only 2 and 3, but discussions of their entry in to school have already started to surface between my husband and myself. He, having had an extremely terrible experience in the public school system, is insistent that I homeschool our children. I, having loved school and having thrived in a public school environment, am perfectly fine with sending my little ones off on that big, yellow bus to public school. And, strangely, I feel a little stronger about it than I would have expected from myself.

There is a lot of emotion tied up in school for me. Things that have very little to do with what I learned there, and a whole lot to do with the friendships I forged over recess and study hall. I moved quite a bit while I was growing up, and the friendships I managed to create every time I started school made each new transition bearable, albeit slightly melancholy for the friends I had to leave behind. So many of these people-- quite a few of whom I still love and count as friends today--I would never have met if I had been homeschooled.

For my husband, the opposite argument can be made. He hated school, didn't do well in his classes, and suffered from a kind of all-around bullying that I thought only existed in movies. He went to the same school for much of his public school career, in a small town that couldn't have had more than 100 students at any given time. Once he got branded (for whatever reason), he became the kid that got picked on every day. In high school, he even had a teacher add to the bullying, opening his locker so some kids could get his brand new Stetson that he'd been saving for all summer so they could cut it in half. He has true horror stories. When he finally decided to change schools and be bussed to the city for his last two years of high school, his only comment on the improvement was that people didn't care that he dressed like a "cowboy" any more than they cared about the kids with baggy jeans or the ones who looked like hippies. But, he reminds me, it is also where he was introduced to underage drinking and drugs.

Even my mother-in-law has started in on this debate, lamenting the downfall of public schools. They're so DANGEROUS now! I'd NEVER send my kids there! Gangs and sex and drugs! Oh my! She's pretty worried about the kinds of things we'll be exposing the children to if we send them to public school. I, on the other hand, have trouble trusting the opinion of someone who counts Fox News as her only source of "facts" when it comes to something like this.

For a long time, in my mind, the issue has been settled. I want my children to go to public school. I want them to get the entire school experience. I know some of it won't be pretty, but I'm willing to trust my parenting skills enough to think we can make it over most of the hurdles that will come along. Even though my husband still brings up homeschooling occasionally, this is one fight I don't think he really expects to win.

Yesterday, however, a friend of ours got me thinking about this all over again. She asked if we were planning on homeschooling our children. I told her, "Uh, well, it's still in debate. We've got a few more years to decide," and she started telling me about a program she's been researching that helps you fund field trips and science experiments for your homeschooled children. She was homeschooled, and for a very long time she's been absolutely sure she wanted to send her children to a school (although she ideally would send them to private school). She disliked her homeschool experience, partly on the basis of things similar to my fears (lack of social interaction being the biggest), but also for reasons of her own. She didn't get to experience a lot of hands-on learning because her mom couldn't afford to buy a lot of materials for them. So her homeschool experience was lackluster; she didn't have a desire to repeat that for her children. After having done a little research, however, she's changed her mind and she's ready to dive in to homeschooling.

I'm definitely not convinced that I want to homeschool my children, but this did put a bug in my ear. My husband, when we discuss the Homeschool Debate, always reminds me of the amazing things I can do with my children that a public school wouldn't be able to provide--the caring, hands-on attention I would be able to give them. And this is tempting. But it also feels a little selfish. Or maybe sending them to public school is the more selfish option, and I'm just coming up with reasons not to keep my kids at home for the next 12 years? I don't know. I do know that my older son already has a passion for other children, squealing with glee when he sees other kids his age on the playground at the park. Can I deny him the sweet savor of daily peer interaction just to protect him from possible unsavory interactions? Would the exciting hands-on activities I could provide from home be enough to fulfill his mind and win over his heart? I'm not so sure.

I know people on both sides of this debate, and I would love feedback on this. What do you love about homeschooling your children? What's nice about putting them on the bus every day? Do you feel like your homeschooled children get enough social interactions with their peers? What have been the drawbacks of public school--bad habits, peer pressure? I'd love to know. You can leave a comment, or if you have a longer message to contribute, you can email me at jhildebr at gonzaga dot edu.

3 comments:

Corinne said...

I was homeschooled through 8th grade, and my brother was the entire way through. I always said I wouldn't homeschool my children. However, as I'm now able to see the reasons behind that, it's mostly based on my mother and how she handled situations, basically not wanting to get involved with other people. I think, especially now, there are so many ways to get social interaction for your children while homeschooling, the kids aren't as isolated as they once were (as long as you make the effort).
That being said, I'm still unsure. It'll depend where we are, the school district, etc. And honestly? I've been looking forward to the quiet days of them being at school to pursue some of my own dreams. But I'm sure I could do that at the same time... or could I? Obviously rambling and you hit a cord :) Good luck w/ the decision!

Shirley said...

I was bullied at school as well so, I can understand your husband's view point. That said, I chose to send my son to public school. Before preschool he was reading. I taught him to read before school. He was beyond many of his class mates to the point of boredom, which landed him in the hall way doing nothing.

He was ahead because he was born with seizures and his neurologist warned me, "I don't know how this will affect him..." He grew out of the seizures and I went on knowing homeschool may be our option since we can't afford private schooling.

When I pulled him from school, I was terrified. There are laws and the school board rules to deal with. After a whole lot of research, it all came together.

There were other things to think about too. This means my going back to work has been pushed WAAAAY back. Since my husband doesn't want to be with the kids and he is horrible at cleaning, that was left to me.

My husband and I work together on it. If he is better at it than I am he does the lesson for the day. My thing in high school was Spanish and since my husband knows nothing about it, my kids are doing beginning Spanish.

It's just a matter of working together as a team, if you were to do it.

AmandaRaeShelton said...

A couple of things from my point of view... first of all, I am in awe of you for being so sure in your parenting skills. I think that is amazing.

I think homeschool is great, if you are the right person for that. It would be easy (from a lesson point) probably through junior high. Once you get into high school things get a little tougher.

It takes a lot of planning and like Shirley said there are laws that you have to adhere to, papers that have to be filed.

I know there are homeschool groups that meet a few times a month to give kids social interaction. So, the socialization aspect could be worked on, but it is a lot more work on your part than just sending them to school.

I had a great time in the public school system, and like you moved around a LOT. I made great friends, was involved in school sports and activities. There was a lot to choose from.

I personally don't think I can give my kids all they will get from a public school.

Corinne made a good point, what about things you want to do? What about writing? It may sound selfish, but we all ask the question "when is it time for me?" You have given 9 months of pregnancy to each of your boys, plus the time they have been alive. You provide everything they need. You also take care of your hubby. When will it be time for some you time?

If, like Corinne said, you can do it all... then homeschooling is probably a good choice for you. I know that I cannot do it all. I try to do all that I can now and fail. So it's not an option for me.

I don't think this helped at all... LOL